Body dysmorphia (BDD) is a common and often chronic psychological condition. Comorbid issues, such as depression, make BDD hard to treat and reduce the chance of remission. BDD causes a preoccupation with appearance defects and body image that are often imaginary or distorted.
This obsession can be severe, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life, and can put people at a high risk for suicide. Therefore, it is important to ascertain the remission and relapse rates associated with BDD.
Katharine A. Phillips of the Rhode Island Hospital recently led a study examining partial remission, remission and relapse rates in a sample of 166 adults with BDD. She used data from a four year longitudinal study to determine what factors most influenced relapse, measured as symptom presence for at least two weeks. Participants were considered in full or partial remission when they met no criteria for BDD for at least eight weeks.
Phillips found that remission rates were much lower for BDD than for other psychological conditions. Specifically, the results revealed that only 20% of the participants would experience full remission over the 4 years. This is much lower than a 57% remission rate for depression as revealed in other studies. Additionally, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia all have been studied in other research and have produced higher remission rates than 20%.
Phillips also found that the longer a participant had BDD and the more severe the condition, the more chronic the symptoms and higher the chance of relapse. Surprisingly, although depression was the most common co-occurring psychological condition with BDD in this study, it did not affect the chronicity of BDD, but did negatively influence remission rates. As comorbidity is common in BDD, this result underscores the importance of identifying those with comorbid BDD and depression, or other issues, so that treatment can be focused to address all of the psychological problems. Phillips added, “Greater understanding of course of illness and predictors of course will enhance understanding and treatment of this often severe and understudied disorder.”
Phillips, K. A., et al. (2013). A 4-year prospective observational follow-up study of course and predictors of course in body dysmorphic disorder. Psychological Medicine 43.5 (2013): 1109-17. ProQuest. Web.
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